Ravens Player Profile: C Jeremy ZuttahPosted on July 25, 2014 by Rob Michels
The Gino Gradkowski experiment simply didn’t work out. The Ravens offensive line was crippled last season in part because of the play from Gradkowski at center. He graded out as the 35th center in the NFL by Pro Football Focus with a -15.6 overall grade.
Knowing an upgrade was needed General Manager Ozzie Newsome traded away a 2015 fifth round pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for Jeremy Zuttah. This could be another quiet move that Newsome made that ends up having a huge impact (Daryl Smith last year).
Zuttah signed a five year, $18 million dollar contract extension after the trade. The Ravens are basically committed to Zuttah until after the 2015 season, when cutting him would create cap space. At only 27 years old the Ravens are fully expecting him to take control of the center positon and hold it down for the near future. He started all 16 games last year at center for the Buccaneers. It was his first full year playing center during his six year career. In 76 career starts in the NFL all for the Buccaneers, he has started 31 games at the center position. Versatility is something that Ravens liked about Zuttah when they acquired him. Coming out of Rutgers, Zuttah started his career as a guard and in just the past few years has found a home at center.
Last season according to PFF, Zuttah graded out as the 21st center in the NFL with an overall grade of 2.2. He is a very athletic center, during his career he has excelled as a run blocker and last year according to PFF graded out with a 5.2 run blocking grade. He had a down year last season pass blocking (-2.2 grade) but has proven to be a quality pass blocker in the past.
The Ravens believed that Gradkowski could replace Matt Birk and keep the offensive line running strong. Once that was obviously not an option the Ravens decided that Zuttah was the right player for the job and at the right price. Zuttah won’t be able to replace Birk either but should be a major upgrade over Gradkowski. People sometimes underrate how good a player Birk was and the task fans and coaches might have placed on Gradkowski last season.
Entering the 2014 season the center job is firmly in Zuttah’s hands. He should help upgrade the interior and improve the teams run game, which isn’t asking for much after last season. Zuttah and a healthy Kelechi Osemele should keep smiles on the face of which ever Ravens running back has the ball.
With a proven starting center quarterback Joe Flacco should have an easier time in the pocket and pre-snap. There was constant pressure on Flacco from the interior last year which often times messed his footwork up and made him bail on the pocket early. The plan is for Zuttah to improve the timing on passing plays and open up more holes for the Ravens running backs.
The Ravens made a great addition getting Zuttah for a fifth round pick and signing him to a reasonable contract. He should help the offensive line immensely and allow for new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak to run the type of offense he wants. Gradkowski will be moved to a backup roll which suits him better.
Newsome is the king of adding underrated players who work perfectly in the Ravens system. Zuttah has had an up and down career so far but should be a reliable starter for the Ravens for the next two to three years.